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Maybe you aren’t ready or able to keep bees on your own – beekeeping requires a significant initial investment of money, plus you need upper-body strength to lift out hive sections – but you’d like to provide a haven for the honeybees, butterflies and other pollinators in your area. Here are some easy-to-do things to turn your yard into a bee-friendly habitat.
There are many things to consider when planting for pollinators. You’ll want to be mindful of which plants are bee-friendly and when and how often they bloom. Consider native flowering plants that will provide the most nectar and pollen to bees. You’ll want to plant so there are blooms year-round (when possible). If purchasing plants, be sure they haven’t been treated with neonicotinoids, which are harmful to bees. There are many resources to help you decide which plants are best for Houston yards:
– The Xerces Society provides a pollinator-friendly plant list for our area.
– Local beekeeper and gardener Donald Burger has a great bee-friendly Houston plant list.
– Speak with your local farmer (like Houston’s own Sown & Grown) – they be able to advise you on what to plant and when
Some of our favorite edibles – citrus, herbs (especially rosemary) and blackberries – are all attractive to bees. Plant these to feed yourself and the bees.
If you don’t have a yard, you can still plant flowers in containers, a window box or on your rooftop/balcony/porch. There is something for everyone.
Do not use pesticides
Be aware of using non-natural herbicides and pesticides. Sevin Dust (carbaryl), a regularly used pesticide, is extremely toxic to bees. Composting and ladybugs should be able to keep most pests at bay.
Provide a water source
Bees need water, especially during the summer. Consider a “bee bath” with shallow water and a textured surface – think a birdbath with rocks or marbles. Make sure the water source is replenished regularly so bees can count on it.
Houston has a long swarm season – bees start to swarm in the spring around rodeo time and will continue until Thanksgiving. If you haven’t had to deal with a swarm in a tree or in your building, it’s likely you know someone who has. By putting up “swarm traps” at your house, you can lure these bees into protective boxes that are easily removed and relocated into beehives.
Sponsor a Hive
If you aren’t able to keep bees or even provide a bee-friendly garden but want to do something, you can sponsor a hive with Bee2Bee Honey Collective. You’ll receive a hive tour, regular updates on how the hive is doing and, best of all, honey! Visit the Bee2Bee Honey Collective for more information.
Author Nicole Buergers is the founder of Bee2Bee Honey Collective, which provides beekeeping services to Houstonians. The hive-hosting program helps guides you through your tricky first year of beekeeping to your rewarding honey harvest. She is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo, which has perks such as bee-friendly seedlings, a swarm trap service and specials on joining the hive-hosting program.